Sunday, April 22, 2012

Three Weeks in Bayawan, Part 2

Do you recognize this Filipino dish?

It’s called Biko, sticky rice, malagkit (literally "sticky" in Tagalog). A mix of glutinous rice, coconut milk and brown sugar, its flattened in a serving plate.

My last blog covered the unusual mode of transportation (pop-pots and tricycles) in Bayawan during my visit to the Philippines. Today I’ll share some traditional Filipino foods. In March I mentioned dishes such as dinuguan, sisig and biko. I’ll also show you wonderful grab-and-eat favorites, buko and jackfruit. Most of our meals were homemade, rich in local island heritage with a few surprises. My husband and I took a culinary journey since our hostess Rose knows her way around the cutting board and kitchen.

First, take a peek at the local produce sold at the Saturday market near the beach. People barter here with a lively sense of community and smiles. This jackfruit caught my eye instantly.

Back from the market with our portion of jackfruit in hand, we prepared for afternoon snack time, Merienda. Getting to the heart of jackfruit isn’t a simple task. You must finger out the large seeds, leaving smooth pale yellow segments to pluck from a bowl. The taste is fresh and clean on your palate.

In the nearby barangay (village) of Mabuhay during a family visit, we had plantains deep fried with caramelized brown sugar. Served on a handy section of washed banana leaf, they are a delight, quickly devoured while sitting in a native house, open to the ocean breeze.

In Mabuhay our hosts hoisted down a big stalk of young green coconuts.

I despise shaved coconut and refuse anything that has coconut flakes. I doubted I’d enjoy buko (young coconut). One taste of the pudding-like flesh of a young coconut and I was hooked. It is delicate and light, and doesn’t even resemble what they call coconut back home. This was the real deal. Now I understand why you learn how to shinny up a tall coconut palm.

I won’t share a photograph of two dishes we ate because, well, to most Americans they are not appetizing once you know the ingredients. One is Sisig, which consists of finely chopped pig’s ears, cheeks, and snout in a sizzling sauce. The other dish, dinuguan, is a Filipino savory stew of meat and/or offal. In our case pig intestines simmered in a rich, spicy dark gravy of pig blood, garlic, chili. Not wanting to appear wimpy, we ate small portions. Don’t Europeans adore their blood sausage along with some other dishes based on animal blood? The dinuguan offered the best flavor, though the intestines were on the chewy side. The sisig was a harder sell. I kept imagining Babe, that charming movie piglet from Australia.

On a familiar note we made guacamole from a variety of locally grown avocado.

A friend of Rose’s on Mindanao grew a foot long avocado. Now that would be something to see! I could go on and on sharing the many dishes Rose prepared for us, but I'll save that for later in the year. I hope you enjoyed this brief culinary exploration of Filipino food.

What is the strangest food you have ever eaten or imagined eating?


Angela Kay Austin said...

You know here in the south, I grew up eating pig ears. Thought it was tasty. Then, I moved away, and now...I never eat them. Maybe I'll give them another try :-) My grandmother would cook pig snout, but I never could eat that...yuck!

Sheila Tenold said...

Hi Angela, it's good to know some Americans use all the animal! I was surprised how flavorful pig blood can taste.
My parents loved pickled pigs feet, but they never appealed to me.
My mother spoke of head cheese, which is from the pig's head, I believe.
Thanks for stopping by!

Ana Morgan said...

Fascinating post! One of the strangest things I've ever eaten is flat bread in Asmara, Ethiopia. It looks and tastes like a huge gray bland pancake sponge, perfect for scooping up insanely spicy stew.
The teenaged daughter-in-residence of a diplomat, I had to eat it and smile.

Sheila Tenold said...

Ethiopian food sounds tasty, Ana. I'm a big fan of spicy Mexican and Asian food. But gray pancakes would make me hesitate. Color is a big part of food presentation. People choose that which is easily produced at the least cost, especially in poor countries.

Ethiopia isn't on most people's Got-to-Visit list. Thanks for sharing your experience in such an exotic locale!


Hi, Sheila!

I have never heard of a jackfruit or seen a picture. Very interesting. You certainly were adventurous in your eating. Thank you for sharing. :)

Mona Risk said...

Sheila, you are lucky to have experienced this part of the world. With all my traveling, I've never been to the Philippines. Yet one of my best friend and colleague was from there.

Josie said...

I've followed and thoroughly enjoyed your posts. These dishes are so interesting, different, and exotic. Thanks for sharing your adventures with us.